Photo of Fanny Veliz

Latina filmmaker to screen award-winning film for ASU students

By

Sarah A. McCarty

Award-winning filmmaker, actor and director Fanny Véliz will speak with ASU students following a screening of her film “Our Quinceanera.”

The School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s Film Spark program will host the screening and the Q&A with Véliz, the film’s director and producer, this Friday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The documentary follows a high school principal in a small town in Texas who hosts a yearly quinceañera for students who can't afford one. The entire border town gets together to teach these girls that with the power of community, any dream can come true.

Véliz said the film has won every film festival where it has screened.

In addition to the success of “Our Quinceanera,” Véliz was just announced as one of eight female filmmakers selected for a new development program as part of the Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Foundation. The program aims to foster voices from underrepresented groups. Véliz, who is one of the few working Latina directors in the U.S., will receive industry support and financial backing over the next year.

Along with Nelson Grande, she created Avenida Productions to help fund films and give a “platform and voice to independent filmmakers of color, women, the LGBTQ community and those who are overlooked and underappreciated by a vast majority of studios.” In its three years, the company has raised millions of dollars via crowdfunding for close to 200 projects. 

Video of Our Quinceañera Documentary Trailer

Véliz talked with ASU Now about her films and the importance of representation.

Question: Can you share how and why you got into filmmaking? 

Answer: I got into filmmaking because of the lack of roles available for me as Latina. I expressed my frustration to a professor in college, and she encouraged me to write my own roles. That’s how I got started. Then I realized, I don’t have to wait for anyone to cast me or other talented Latino actors; I can be the one to create the roles and have a say in the way our community is represented in the media.

Q: Tell us a little bit about “Our Quinceanera,” which will be screening at ASU. Why was this project so important to you?

A: I really thought it was important to tell a positive story about our community. I was also drawn to the opportunity to tell a story that takes place in a border town and the duality of the culture in the region of the country. I wanted to ask the question, “Can you live in the U.S. and also be proud of your heritage?”

Q: What do you hope the ASU students who attend the screening get from the film? 

A: That everyone has a particular voice that needs to be heard. I’m mostly interested in students learning ways to make their dream projects a reality without waiting for anyone to give them the green light.

Q: How would you grade the level of Latino representation in film and TV today? 

A: C+. Although there are some great shows out, the data still proves that Latinos are the most underrepresented group based on our population. Behind the camera the numbers are even lower. But I see improvement, and it’s an exciting time for our community.

Q: What advice do you have for young filmmakers at ASU? 

A: Just get it made. Stay true to yourself. Tell the stories that are in your heart. The money will come if you have integrity and share your unique point of view.

'Our Quinceañera' Screening + Q&A 

When: Friday, Feb. 21. 6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. screening.

Where: Marston Exploration Theater, Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV, Tempe campus.

Details: Free food and drink provided. RSVP required.